Our entry for the TAB Tallinn Architecture Biennale Installation Competition 2022 focuses on the longstanding Estonian tradition of log building. The structure consists of packed logs of varying length and diameter, conically shaped using a robotically enabled lathe to avoid milling. Its surface is smooth on one side and rich in texture on the other. Besides establishing its structural principles, Summum Engineering helped the design team in discussions on the radial shrinkage of green, whole timber, as well as coming up with catchy names for the entry, settling on Log-a-rhythm.
Log-a-rhythm is designed by Alicia Nahmad, Andy Watts and Vishu Bhooshan. The proposal takes advantage of the heritage and sustainability of green logs to create a timber structure that is both smooth on one side and rich in texture on the other. The proposal uses lashing as a joinery strategy to avoid unsustainable milling and a robotic enabled lathe to shape the logs. The pavilion can be dismantled, giving each visitor a log to keep and make into a stool, table or post-process into a wood product.
The Log-a-rhythm pavilion responds to the Biennale’s topic of Slow Building by connecting the topics of mindful automation, participatory craft-making and appreciation of human-based physical processes. In the current context, automation and machines are regarded as a faster, more efficient alternative to human craft. The paradigm is one of craftspeople augmented by efficient machines. In this case, techniques relating to traditional log-house construction and joinery have been investigated, augmented and put to reinterpreted uses. These include lathe-based wood turning, joinery, and rope-based lashing.
The pavilion takes the form of a doubly curved, form-found structure. The fluid nature of the form aims to combine state-of-the-art computational design and automation technologies with that of traditional fabrication techniques. Timber logs are the primary material of the pavilion, which are packed to achieve the proposed design geometry. The logs are stacked in such a way as to achieve a duality of textures. The smooth exterior, demonstrating the stacking effect of the logs, sits in contrast against the nearby Estonian Museum of Architecture. Meanwhile, the interior of the pavilion enclosure has a dynamic rugged expression, with each log being clearly differentiated with its varying lengths. This coarse interior, reminiscent of stalactites – but in a wooden cave, creates a fascinating and engaging perspective for visitors to be drawn into.
Log-a-rhythm, along with its strong physical experience, will also host a participatory digital layer. Over the tumultuous two years that the world has seen, stories have manifested across the world of experiences in the time of COVID-19. Therefore, in keeping with the theme of Slow Building – in this case, our re-emergence into society – we will invite attendees and participants from across the world to contribute their stories. These will then form an acoustic layer inside the pavilion, with recorded stories being played throughout the pavilion for attendees to hear and experience as they move closer to proximity-activated sound sources.
The construction of the pavilion takes cues from traditional techniques. Automated robotic fabrication will mimic traditional lathe-based wood-turning to produce the log sections of the pavilion. A wire-based framework will bind the logs together – a modern day approach to traditional lashing seen in log construction. The log joinery will be further bound together using traditional butterfly-based joints.
The fabrication of the pavilion will be made visible to the citizens of Tallinn. A factory in a box will be installed onsite throughout the construction process allowing robotics and other digital technologies such as scanning, photogrammetry and data collection to be utilized. Having the digital fabrication unit on-site allows the public to engage and participate on novel fabrication technologies whilst making the craft of the building process explicit to the wider audience.
Log-a-rhythm has been developed to be sustainable in every process – through from material selection to its lifespan beyond the Biennale. Locally sourced green wood will be used which captures CO2, and eliminates the resource intensive process of wood-drying. Each log will be digitally processed minimizing waste and optimizing material resource utilization. Digital analyses such as scanning, and material selection will enable customized processing of the logs. The on-site factory will reduce the need for transportation to and from the site whilst enabling community participation throughout the building process. The pavilion is designed for disassembly. When the two year period comes to an end the public can gradually remove the logs from the support mesh. The pavilion will change form as it gets dismantled until it finally disappears.
Following its tenure as a feature pavilion for the City of Tallinn, Log-a-rhythm would not be simply dismantled. Rather, a circular approach has been taken, allowing the pavilion to be disassembled. The logs can be repurposed into tables, benches, walls and features. The public will be invited to participate on the dismantling process and keep a piece of Log-a-rhythm as useful memorabilia for their enjoyment.
The entry was named one of the twelve finalists out of 119 entries in total.
Log-a-rhythm received extra attention from the jury. They thought the pavilion was physically very impressive and a well-designed installation. The jury found the contrary quality appealing – the smooth versus the opposite rustic side – but had doubts about its ecological footprint and the amount of fabrication needed. The involvement of the public as part of the design process was a great idea and that, given a long tradition of making shapes out of logs in Estonia, the installation would definitely be appealing to Estonian visitors.
The model of our entry was exhibited at the Museum of Estonian Architecture at the Tallinn Architecture Biennale in September 2022.
Alicia Nahmad, Andy Watts and Vishu Bhooshan (design)
Anagha Patil, Mauricio Villagra Dill’Erva (additional design team)
Diederik Veenendaal | Summum Engineering
Photo of exhibition, courtesy of the Estonian Centre for Architecture, Evert Palmets.